Amino acids are often referred to as the building blocks of protein, because, technically speaking, that’s exactly what they are. They’re utilized by the human body to repair and regenerate tissue and cells, as well as to help break down food molecules, assist with post-workout muscular recovery, and various other internal bodily processes and functions that most of us have no idea about. There are 21 amino acids currently available, with just nine of them being essential, and the remaining 11 being non-essential. Essential amino acids are referred to as such because our bodies require them for various processes, yet we cannot synthesize them naturally, so they have to come from our diets instead. On the flipside however, non-essential amino acids CAN be synthesized naturally by our bodies, which is why they’re called non-essential. Don’t let the name fool you however, just because we can synthesize them naturally this doesn’t mean that we don’t hugely benefit from getting more inside of our bodies. When it comes to amino acid supplements, vegans often struggle to get enough as some of these aminos are derived from animals, or from animal by-products, meaning vegans can’t consume them. Non-essential amino acids however, are different because we produce them ourselves. Here’s a look at 4 of the best vegan amino acid supplements currently available, and exactly what it is that makes them so beneficial.
Leucine is actually one of three branched chain amino acids BCAAs, that is incredibly popular in the bodybuilding world and is considered a fantastic vegan amino acid supplement. As far as muscle growth, repair, and development goes, leucine is arguably the best of the best, and for very good reason too. Leucine is actually broken down into fat molecules and is commonly found in foods such as brown rice or whole wheat bread. Of the human body’s protein structures, lecuine is around 8% of your total amino acid count and is actually the 4th most commonly concentrated form of amino acid found within your tissue. Leucine is considered especially beneficial because it acts as a form of catalyst for protein synthesis, basically speeding up and improving the synthesis of new muscle proteins within the body. For optimal results, leucine is best consumed twice daily in 3 gram dosages, and more rapid uptake, it is best consumed on an empty stomach.
Valine is another BCAA, of which there are three, (leucine, valine, and isoleucine) and it actually functions as a form of potent stimulant once consumed that also greatly assists with protein synthesis and the repair and re-growth of muscle tissue. Although valine is found in dairy produce as well as meat and fish, valine is also found within foods such as legumes, mushrooms, and brown rice, all of which are vegan friendly. When paired up with the remaining two amino acids, valine comprises just over 70% of all amino acids found naturally within our bodies, or rather, within proteins found within our bodies. Valine plays a key role in cellular growth and development, it helps to repair damaged muscle tissue, it helps to regulate and control blood sugar levels, as well as helping to enhance mental health, concentration, and stamina and focus. Our bodies cannot synthesis it and so it has to come to us from dietary sources, hence the reason why it’s a popular choice for vegans, providing it has been derived from the vegan-friendly sources we listed previously that is.
Tryptophan is another non-essential amino acid which we can still benefit hugely from if we increase the amount found within our bodies. Not only is it found in animal proteins, it is also naturally found within a number of potent plant proteins, which is one of the main reasons why it’s considered a vegan-friendly amino acid. Tryptophan is incredibly beneficial as it has been proven to help cure insomnia, anxiety, depression, stress, and numerous other health conditions, both physical and mental. From an exercise standpoint however, tryptophan is also incredibly beneficial as it has been proven to greatly enhance athletic performance. Once we consume tryptophan, we then take it and our bodies convert it into a compound known as 5-HTP, which stands for 5 Hydroxytrytophan. Next up it is again converted into a new compound, this time to serotonin, which is a hormone responsible for making us feel calm, relaxed, stress-free, and content. It is able to transmit signals between our nerve cells and can boost serotonin levels within the brain, which can then lead to increased mental focus and stamina, as well as enhanced memory and concentration levels.
Citrulline malate is actually a combination of an amino acid known as citrulline, and a form of organic salt known as malate, hence the name citrulline malate. For vegans who find themselves partaking in especially intense and physically demanding exercise, often high intensity exercise such as HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) this amino acid is absolutely ideal because it has been proven to greatly assist with the removal of harmful toxins from the body, including lactic acid, which is a by-product of aerobic activity that can lead to painful muscle cramps and can cause fatigue. Not only that, it has also been found to help rid the body of ammonia, which is another by-product intense physical activity that can lead to reduced levels of protein synthesis, as well as muscle wasting catabolic states, which is obviously far from ideal. For optimal results, it is recommended you use this amino acid twice a day, in 2g dosages.